Thursday, June 27, 2013

One Hundred Years Ago

My father was born one hundred years ago today.  He told me the story once of how he hid under the front steps at his family's home at 40 Bow Street, Beverly, Massachusetts, when the fire wagon approached.  There were horses galloping, the firehouse dog was barking and men hollering, which made for a frightfully noisy scene.  That would have been about 1915 to 1920.  It is amazing to me, the advance of technology that his generation saw.  From horse and wagon to men on the moon!

 Dick Steele, c. 1985

 Dick with his older brother, Fred, the truck driver, circa 1920.

 Richard Andrew Steele, c. 1945

Dick and Fred on the Beverly Police Force.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Post Five - It's All About the Mail

Mon. 3/19/45:  I felt a bit stiff and bruised from yesterday’s workout but otherwise O.K.  We had beaching exercises all morning and did ship’s work in P.M. while anchored off Green Beach.  We had to strip the wreck in the tank deck and repair our hawsers and cables.  I got a little sand and a splinter from the boat as a souvenir.  Got underway at 7 P.M. and tomorrow we will have gunnery practice again with planes, and then head back to Pearl Harbor.  At 6 P.M. we had a “Survivor & Rescue” drill.  We had to lower the debarkation nets.  While doing so, I lost my good Waterman’s 100-year pen with my name on it, that I had given me when I enlisted last June 1st, 1943 – damn.  It slipped out of my shirt pocket and I could see it shimmering down in the clear water and was damn near ready to dive after it.  That drill was a costly one for me.  About $20, that pen cost, my friends.


Tues 3/20/45:  Had the 4-8 AM watch this morning; saw a beautiful sunrise off the island of Lanai.  We also have passed by Molokai, Kahoolawe and the tip of the main island of Hawaii itself during the cruise.  We had General Quarters all A.M.  All guns fired and did some good shooting – what a racket and how the old 899 quaked and quivered.  Oh, yes, during mooring operations Sunday A.M. we pulled two pad eyes right out of the deck.  It’s only 3/8” plate and damn poor steel at that – cripes, a shell wouldn’t even meet enough resistance to even explode.  I think it would just pass right through like so much paper.  I swear – what a tub!  Got back to Pearl Harbor at 10 o’clock and tied up at Pier 11 in West Lock.  Immediately went after mail – got very little for crew – I got a letter from  Bud Rengman in El Cerrito, California, one from Jim Bratchie in the Philippines, June Pickering and a V-mail from my sister, Grace, two from Ethel about 10-12 days old.  She has been to the doctor – something wrong in the womb.  I hope to God she’s OK, but she was so vague about it.  She is contemplating going to work at Sylvania again.

Wed 3/21/45: Had my first liberty in Honolulu.  Had a 1-hour small boat run to Fleet Landing and walked to main gate, took a bus to Honolulu and walked around.  I bought a banana split and a coke and had some pictures taken, one with Stan Wiecexak, SC 3/c and sent them to Ethel.  We took a bus to Waikiki Beach and went to the beautiful Royal Hawaiian Hotel.  We looked around and came back to town with a Marine – Bill Daley, from Dorchester, Mass., a vet of Tarawa, Saipan and Tinian.  We had a couple of drinks (boy, were they weak).  All the bars close at 4 P.M.  I bought a souvenir map, a grass skirt for Judy, some shells, pictures, two kerchiefs, a handkerchief (and this pen).  I will send some of it home immediately.  Stuff that has no writing on it I can send home; the rest will have to wait 30 days.  What a lot of baloney that is!  Got a bus back – a long trip – got a small boat back to the ship about 6:30 P.M.  It isn’t worth the effort, but I’ll go again just to get off this damn ship awhile.  Called Tommy (Agnes Blanchard) and just told her I was back; may see her again.

Thurs 3/22/45:  Stayed aboard ship all P.M.  I went after mail in AM.  Got 11 letters for the crew – something must be fouled up in the mail.  I got none.  Picked up a 16mm movie film; James Cagney in “Johnny Come Lately”.  We showed it on the main deck at 8 P.M. – not bad.  I worked on a stage over the side all P.M. and the new numbers for the ship - 899 - 6 ft. high and 3 ft. across and 1 ft. thick – a hell of a job.

Fri 3/23/45:  Part routine; didn’t leave the ship all day.  Had MacMillan get the mail, only there wasn’t any.  It sure must be fouled up, but this is overseas.  I worked over the side on a stage all day; blocked out the 6 ft. numbers on the port bow and stern starboard quarter, then wrote this.  Wish I had some mail.

The Numbers He Painted

 Sat 3/24/45: We’re still in port, Pier 11, West Lock, Pearl Harbor.  Worked all day over the side and finished locking out 899 in 6 ft letters.  I retrieved an 18” rule I dropped by stripping and swimming after it.  I’ve meant to note before that it always seems cloudy over these islands but sunny out to sea a ways.  It rained intermittently today; warm as usual.  We are in sort of an out-of-the-way corner of the harbor.  It’s all amphibious here: LST’s – about 100 around here – LCI, LCT, LSM – all types.  Some go and came everyday.  We’ll be getting our load someday soon and be shoving off “down under”.  My guess is either Guam or the Philippines.

LCI - Landing Craft Infantry

LCT - Landing Craft Tank

LCM - Landing Ship Medium


Sun 3/25/45:  Meant to say yesterday I got a letter from Mr. Beckwith, minister of the Dane St. Cong. Church, a swell guy.  Nothing from Ethel, I feel pretty low.  I’m just homesick for her and the kids. I would like some mail and a picture or two would help.  God, I’ll be glad when this is all over and we can all go home.  Germany must give in soon it seems. Our other team is across the Rhine and Russia is closing in on the other side.  Japan mainland is catching hell from our B-29 super-forts in raids from 200-300 planes.  When the B-32 comes out they’ll be able to plaster the yellow bastards off the map.  This is Pearl Harbor where they (the Japs) started this Dec. 7, 1941.  All marks of that sneak attack have been obliterated except for a few stranded pilings where ships were sunk and are still underwater, preventing their use as tying-up places.  I haven’t been to Clark or Hickham Field yet, but have seen then both several times.  I think, maybe Clayt Cressy may be a Hickham.  I’ve written the guy several times, but he’s very lax as a correspondent to me.  I had liberty today.  I left the ship via small boat at 9 AM, arrived Fleet Landing at 10, got to Honolulu at 11 and went straight to Waikiki.  Got there at 12.  It was so crowded that I couldn’t get a locker, so had no swimming.  It was a beautiful clear, hot day, too.  I carried my 127 camera – got a film from a soldier.  I took 3 snaps – had Bob Schema, Lowery and Luadzers in the pictures with me; one taken in front of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and two taken standing on the beach at Waikiki.  I went over to Tommie’s.  She had a cold.  Had a couple beers and sent straight across the street to the Makuola, a servicemen’s center and tried to locate Clayt – no soap.

The crew mentioned in this entry are:

Milton Bert Lowery, Seaman 2nd Class
Delmer Henry Luadzers, Seaman 1st Class
Thomas Walker MacMillan, Seaman 1st Class
Robert Edward Schema, Seaman 1st Class
Stanley Albert Wiecexak, Ships Cook, 3rd Class



Sunday, April 7, 2013

War Diary - Post Four - Maneuvers Off Maui

Thurs. 3/15/45:  Bright, sunny, windy as hell and rough but warm.  We are out about 25 miles off the islands maneuvering with the other 3 LSTs – at 9 AM had General Quarters (GQ) man battle stations and had firing AA practice at 2 TBF’s, [torpedo bomber aircraft] towing targets.  Our 20 & 40 MM’s fired 4 rounds a piece – good gunnery.  I have been placed in charge of Repair Party #2 since I got promoted in rate from Cox to BM 2/c.  I formerly fired the 20 MM #20-12 beside the wheelhouse.  I like to fire and was doing swell but as Boatswains mate I have to be in charge of a Damage Control Party and stand by ready to call to any damage, fire, etc. that might occur during battle.  At 11AM the LST 867 took is in tow – they passed over a 21 thread “messenger” via a line–throwing gun and we hauled it aboard thru our bull-cock on the bow and hooked on their stern anchor cable to our towing bridle.  Then they heaved in and towed us awhile - very rough and windy.  Right after chow we towed them.  Because of the high wind our gunner-mates missed 5 times with the line throwing gun and we had a near collision with the 867.  We finally got our cable over to them and when they got ready to let go, the ____ cut our line.  We consequently lost 100 ft of 2” line and 100 ft. of 21-thread.  We’ll have to see them in Pearl Harbor and get it back.  Went on watch, 12–4 and 8–12 PM. and got a beautiful tan.  I wrote a page to Ethel and George Chase, my sister’s boy and Marine at Tinion Island.  Maybe I’ll see him out there someday.

Friday-3/16/45:  Underway as before.  Dawn found us off the Island Maui and others of the Hawaii Islands; all mountainous and beautiful.  In the AM we beached twice.  On the 2nd beaching we let out 750 ft. of cable and I was getting ready to get to fell away from the winch with only 100 ft left we stopped it.  The #17 got stuck high and dry on the beach and we weren’t able to pull her off until 3 P.M.  All the ships then anchored in the lagoon.  Bow doors were let down and all hands had a swim – my first in the Pacific.  We were anchored in 12 fathoms (72 ft) of water and the water was so clear it looked as though it was only 10 feet deep, and warm! 75 degrees – had a swell swim!  The weather was warm, windy and mostly dandy today.

Sat. 3/17/34:  I made out another allotment for Ethel yesterday for an additional $20.  This will give her $145 a month.  Today has been a routine day – ship handling mostly a workout for signalmen.  The deck force painted the tank deck dull red before we get back to Pearl Harbor and get another load up?? I fixed the stern anchor cable today.  I put seizing on throat next to anchor.  Windy, warm and clear.  4-6 and 12-4 watch tonight.  Still maneuvering off the islands with the 867, 876, 17 and 844.

Sun 3/18/45:  What a day! After some firing runs in the morning and some mooring exercises with the 676, we anchored about 1 PM and the Capt. allowed 25 men to go ashore in the small  LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle & Personnel) – we carry two, port & starboard.  They weigh 2800 lbs. empty. [Several sources state they actually weight 18,000 lbs. empty - that measurement my father had might have been in KG's.] We went to a beautiful beach called Green Beach on the Island of Maui in the Hawaiian group.  The beach was of coarse, yellow sand that looked white from offshore and under water. It was a big half-moon beach with a huge hill of lava at each end and beautiful palm trees all around it.  The bottom was clear and spotted with coral patches and black sand areas.  We landed with the port boat and drove right up on the beach, let down the bow doors and went ashore.  The boat backed off and we went for a swim and then set out to look the beach over.  It was about 1 mile from end to end.  We picked up coral, shells and pieces of lava for the kids and were enjoying ourselves when suddenly, Mr. Kimber, the assistant deck officer (age 20) called us to get back to the ship and we started for the 2nd boat which had come to get us.  The boat Coxswain breached the boat in the heavy surf and we immediately started to struggle to get its stern on into the surf.  When we got to the boat she was about 30 degrees angle to the beach with the engines still running and the screws turning.  I was leading P.O. and boatswain and suggested to Mr. Kimber to put the other LCVP’s anchor line under and around the stern and pull the breached boat off the beach.  Mr. Kimber who is a small boy in size was extremely excited and running around like a madman.  When I suggested we put the line on the stern, he informed me to “Keep my goddamn mouth shut and push this boat out”, which, I and several others knew was absolutely wrong.  I could have and as results proved, should have argued with him and insisted we pull the stern out first.  All the time, the surf was pounding the hell out of the boat and lifting it higher on the beach.  After pulling, trying to get it off, the line parted and the #2 boat hurried back to the ship and came back with a 6” hawser and a handy-billy pump to try and pump out the breached boat.  We finally pulled her off and the port side was all bashed in.  We tied her to the #2 boat and went out about 50 ft off shore.  I was standing waist-deep bailing with a bucket while Mr. King (the lst Lt. who came back with the other boat) tried to get the handy-billy started.  She was settling fast and just as the damn pump started she went under.  I had to cut the lines holding her to the other boat and jump and swim clear.  I swam a 6” hawser (Thank God I can swim well) to shore and secured it to a pillbox and palm tree that was one of many such on the beach (also barbed wire strung along).  Finally, the big ship beached alongside the wreck and the Capt. was really sore – I can’t blame him.  We led a 7” line to the wreck, also a 1” steel cable.  I dove 4 times and fastened a shackle onto a ring bolt and the side and the deck winches pulled her up onto the beach.  We uprooted a tree that we had the hawser around and nearly tore up another palm tree.  We finally pulled her in the barn doors with the snaking winch in the tank deck and secured about 10 o’clock.  I then had to heave in the stern anchor and raise the other small boat aboard and finally got secured at 10:45 P.M.  Just then, the Capt. called for Chief Pearsall, Corbett, Frye, Iovenette, Remein, Peters, Patten, McLeod, Demkowski and I to report to his room immediately.  We expected to catch hell for losing the boat, although all we had done was to try to save it.  He said, “Sit down”.  Then he broke out 3 qts. of  rye whiskey, 1 Seagram’s, 1 Crown and 2 Schenley’s Black.  He said, “Go ahead boys, you earned it!”  We did.  It evaporated in 10 minutes and we slept “tight”.  As a result of it all, Mr. Kimber is awaiting a summary court martial; also, Tannenbaum, the boat Cox who breached the boat in the first place.  I don’t believe they’ll be fired quietly and I hope not.  They both tried to do right, although they went at it wrong.  Mr. Kimber lost his head and damn near got killed when he got thrown off the boat by a big breaker white trying to save it.  We’ll probably get a new boat when we go to Pearl Harbor on Tuesday.  A fellow named Murphy, from New York is also awaiting summary court from slugging a 2nd class cook in the galley.  Quite a day!

[Sandy’s note:  I was able to locate the Muster Rolls for LST 899.  The men mentioned in the diary are all listed on the initial Muster Roll at the ships commissioning.  There full names and initial rank are as follows: Kenneth Martin Pearsall, Chief Motor Machinist Mate; Henry Eugene Corbett, Motor Machinist Mate, 1st Class; William Edward Frye, Fireman, 2nd Class; Mario Andrew Iovenette, Gunner’s Mate 1st Class; Frederick Remein, Seaman 2nd Class; Isaac Mervin Peters, Seaman 2nd Class; Orville Frederick Patten, Ship Fitter, 1st Class; Richard Andrew Steele, Coxswain; Joseph John Demkowski, Coxswain; William Lucien MacLeod, Fire Controlman, 3rd Class; Daniel James Murphy, Seaman Second Class; Daniel Tannenbaum, Seaman 2nd Class; Joseph S. Kimber, Duty Ensign; William F. King, 1st Lieutenant.  The Captain was Albert H. Thornton.]

Friday, April 5, 2013

Foto Friday

Dress Blues

These pictures may have been taken after the war, as he has his ribbons on.

On Liberty

I love the signs in the back round: "No Stags Allowed Inside" and "$1.50 per Couple, Inc. Tax".  Is that admission or per dance?

The Girl He Left Behind


I am not sure when this photo was taken of my mother.  It was a formal function, with men in tuxes in the back round, her corsage, fancy hat.  This was found loose in the war photo album.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

War Diary - Post Three - Aloha!

Fri – 3/9/45:  Sub scare still on us.  We are alone and can only do 11 knots – can’t run or fight as our 40 MM would be out-ranged by any gun over 8” – great!

Sat 3/10/45:  One more day to Pearl Harbor.  Weather has been fair the last 3 days.  The crew is feeling better about everything.  I hope it all comes out OK – expect to hit Pearl Harbor early tomorrow AM.

Sun 3/11/45:  Off Diamond Head at dawn – the most beautiful sight I ever saw.  We cruised 2 miles to ½ mile offshore from Pearl Harbor past Honolulu to Waikiki Beach until 10 o’clock.  Then I went in a small boat 8 miles to Pearl Harbor and picked up mail.  What a beautiful sight!  Dark blue, light blue, dark green and light was the water from offshore, to the white coral beaches and lush green mountains rise almost from the beaches up into the clouds – really awe inspiring.  Pearl Harbor is tremendous and hard to describe: a small opening into a huge natural harbor.  Ships of every description were in.  I drove the small boat way into Fleet Landing and picked up mail.  I received letters from Swannie, Geo. Chase, Jr. and Agnes “Tommy” Blanchard in Honolulu.  After a wet trip (high wind and water – warm though) back to Kewalo Basin where the 899 was beached to let off our ducks.  I got three hours liberty and immediately went directly to 420 Pau St. and spent the entire 3 hours with her. [Tommy Blanchard]  She and I reminisced on Beverly and she showed me pictures (some of Ethel, myself and the kids) of a party in her honor taken by me 3 years ago at Bug Pickering’s.  Also drank a good portion of her rye – very good.  Back at ship at 6:30 P.M.  She drove me back on her open top convertible Dodge – a swell treat.

Mon. 3/12/45:  Nothing much except we moved from Kewalo Basin, Honolulu to Pearl Harbor and we got another view of the wonderful shore line from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor with Diamond Head just beyond Waikiki.  What a sight!  We are anchored in the very back part of the harbor – there’s about 25 – 40 LST’s nested right here.  We are tied up with 3 others now.  Went after mail and received two letters from my honey, one March 5 and 7th – only 5 days from Beverly to Pearl Harbor via air mail – not bad!  Swell letters – she referred to our last phone call from Los Angeles to her.

Tues. 3/13/45: Still tied up.  We had to move to let the 864 and 854 out.  We moved inside and the 25 (an old LST) moored outside us.  She has Malta, Anzio and Normandy painted on her superstructure – been around!  I had no liberty but went in after mail at 4 P.M. We are scheduled to pull out at 6:30 AM for a week’s of maneuvers and then to come back here.  Maybe I’ll get some liberty next time.  I got a real deal on liberty this time.  I drew $22 pay today.

Wed 3/14/45:  I meant to mention yesterday the beautiful rainbow that formed a complete arch over the mountains and as we ran the small boat down the harbor toward the hills it was as though we were going right under the rainbow itself.  The hills were a riot of color.  The spectrum seemed to be all over it.  I’ll never forget it.  Got under way at 5:30 A.M. with 4 other LST’s – 967, 17, 876 and ourselves.  We passed outside of Diamond Head and proceeded up the coast about 10 miles.  We tried to take aboard some ducks and LVT’s but it was too rough.  It was a clear day, but very windy causing a rough sea. 
I worked on the stern anchor all day.  We let it out and took it in 4 times and let out about 350 ft. each time.  The last time, the anchor brought in a large piece of coral.  We’re underway for a point about 80 miles from here.  I have the 4-6 P.M. and 12-4 A.M. watches today.

Monday, April 1, 2013

War Diary - Post Two - The Panama Canal

We arrived at Panama City, Florida about Jan 15, 1945 and commenced our 16 day “shakedown”.  It was a tough go.  We beached daily, towed other ships, re-fueled at sea.  Fired all guns many times – had night maneuvers, mooring and innumerable inspections.  About Jan 29th we had an official final inspection – we passed with excellent marks – the best record on any LST for 6 months – our fire drills, fire & rescue, mooring to dock, to 9 mooring buoy, towing and re-fueling at sea were done in record time.  We had maneuvers with the army during this time.  We met a bunch of “ducks” amphibious trucks – at sea (5 miles) at midnight.  They came aboard via our bow doors and at 4:30 AM left the same way and rendezvoused and a beaching at dawn and we beached with 8 other LST’s an hour later.

After shakedown we proceeded back to New Orleans La.  We were there about 1 week in which we had various alterations and repairs to the ship at Todd-Johnson Shipyards in Algiers, La.  I had several pleasant liberties in New Orleans again.  Called Ethel one day from there – very nice to hear her voice and Andy’s – but not so good to hear her cry.

Left New Orleans Feb. 6 1945 for the last time and went to Mobile, Ala. Again for dry-dock.  We had a broken part-screw that was replaced.  As mail clerk I once again got ashore – no mail though.

On Feb. 7, 1945 we headed out of Mobile Bay into the Gulf of Mexico on a course about due south for Panama, C.A.  We had a good 6-day run – fair weather and moderate seas – it got real warm as we got to the lower latitudes and on Feb. 13th, 1945 we arrived at 2 P.M. at Coco Solo, Canal Zone, Panama.  I went immediately for mail on the bas and got two bags for the crew – everybody happy.  That night I was assigned to Shore Patrol duty in Cristobal, and had a very interesting evening.  The natives were celebrating a 4-day holiday Fiesta and were on the final night – everyone drunk and raising hell.

Next day I had a swim in a beautiful palm tree-ringed pool- water temp about 80 degrees- sun terrific – have a swell tan.

Feb. 16, 1945:  We started thru the Panama Canal – a hot, clear day – the canal was very interesting – a great feat of engineering – a series of locks raises the level 84 feet and drops down again to the Pacific side at Balboa.  We passed thru a series of fresh water inland lakes – Miraflores Lake where we flushed out all the fire hoses and mains.  The Culebra Cut was some job and dredging as a continual operation.  We had a crew of “Spics” handle the lines going thru so we enjoyed the scenery.  We hit Balboa and the Pacific at dusk and headed south until we reached 300 miles north of the equator – very hot.  Crew all stripped, some got burns – I got a swell tan and feel great.  The heat below decks is wicked; damp and stifling.  It makes sleeping difficult.  We had a fairly good trip up the coast of Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico, lower California up to San Diego in 13 days.  At San Diego we were diverted and went on to San Pedro, where we arrived at 10:27 P.M. Feb. 27, 1845. (Los Angeles Harbor)

Next day I went ashore via small boat (LCVP) for mail.  Went across San Pedro to Terminal Island to Naval Base but found no mail for us.  That night I had liberty from 5:30 P.M. to 7:30 A.M.  I went via street car to Los Angeles – about 30 miles – I bought some cards, sent them home and went on to Hollywood via street car.  Got off at Sunset Blvd. & Vine St., walked down to Hollywood and Vine St. to the famous Hollywood canteen.  It was swell.  Ted Lewis and his band were playing – free seats & pretty gals to dance and to talk all free.  I left there and made a voice recording that I sent home and than headed back to L.A. thence to San Pedro and the ship.

 A letter to Judy, his 5 year old daughter

Next day I got 8 sacks of mail that was forwarded from San Diego and was I busy!  An Hour later we pulled out of San Pedro past the Wilmington breakwater and headed west for Hawaii at 6 P.M. March 1st 1945 – Oh yes – I called Ethel at 12:30 AM from L.A. (it was 4:30 AM at home - she evidently had a good connection but I didn’t.  As for me it was another unsatisfactory long distance call – she was upset.

On Friday Mar 2, 1945 – one day out of San Pedro headed for Hawaii, Pearl Harbor it started to get rough and San & Sun & Mon it was very rough – rain, high seas and winds.  The ship rolled heavily. We got a 20 degree roll at times – many were sick – I was OK.  Tuesday the 6th the lookouts were lax and missed a plane.  We had G.O. and caught hell from the skipper.  Wed the 7th he put us on 4 hours on watch and 4 hours off and made us turn-to on ships’ work too.  The crew is very resentful and trouble is brewing.  Thurs- March 8, 1944 [1945] – an enemy plane & ship reported sunk 100 miles north of us – another enemy supply ship sighted – all evidence of subs operating in vicinity.

From Daddy to You - All My Love

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sentimental Sunday - 1961

New Easter Dress - 1961
Family friend, Phil Olsen in the back round.

Going to church.  This is moi and my mother, Ethel Taylor Steele.
We attended First Baptist Church of Beverly (Massachusetts).
Our family lived at 60 County Way, in the Ryal Side neighborhood.
This is the year that my father and I spotted a rabbit in the back yard. He explained that it was Peter Cottontail and I, undoubtedly believed him. The funny thing is, we never saw a rabbit again in that yard.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Military Service Diary of Richard Andrew Steele, Sr.


This is the diary of my father, Richard Andrew Steele, Sr. (1913-1995). It chronicles his service during World War II as a Boatswains Mate, First Class.  Most of his service was spent aboard LST 899.  It begins November 14, 1944 and ends January 5, 1946.

The book itself measures 8”x 5”, is bound in khaki green cloth.  The front page has a printed number 50174 and reads “Manufactured by U.S. Government Printing Office”.
The pages are lined and are not numbered.  The pages of the entire book have been cut diagonally at the upper corners. His words were written with a fountain pen.

Inside Front Cover:  In case of anything happening to me – please forward this to my wife – Mrs. R.A. Steele, 9 Kernwood Ext., Beverly, Mass.

I will transcribe this just as it has been written.

Sandra Steele DeFord. March 26, 2013

The Journey to the Pacific Begins

The crew of 105 men and 7 officers was formed at Camp Bradford, Va. (Norfolk) Nov, 14? 1944.  We underwent extensive training as a unit for two weeks – on Thanksgiving Day Nov. 28th 1944 we left Little Creek, Va. on the LST 985 for a two weeks training cruise.  We went to Baltimore, Md. and cruised in adjacent waters for two weeks.

Upon return to Bradford we went to Pittsburg, Penna. on Sunday Dec 12, 1944 to pick up our new LST 899.  At Pitts we stayed 11 days at Carnegie Tech awaiting the completion and commissioning of the ship. (Ethel came back with me after I had two days at home and stayed 5 days with me).  We were happy just to be together – she attended the commissioning exercises held on a gloomy, frigid snowy day Dec. 23, 1944 at Dravo Shipyards, Neville Island, Pa.

We pulled out into the Ohio River at noon of that day and headed down river for New Orleans, La.  That was the last time I saw Ethel – waving goodbye from the dock (God knows I miss her).  I’m writing this March 9, 1945 and will be in Pearl Harbor in two days.

The trip down-river was gloomy – icy – wet – went thru about 60 locks in the Ohio and handled icy lines all the way – a tough trip – ship covered with ice.  The Miss. River proved smoother, muddier but no locks to contend with – we arrived at New Orleans on Dec. 31, 1944 and the next day, Jan 1st 1945 we were fully commissioned and our Capt Thornton officially took command.  That was the day he said “Let this be known as a happy ship.”

We got supplies, ammunition & fuel at New Orleans and I had some excellent liberties there – a very quaint, interesting city.

About Jan 10, 1945 we left for Mobile, Ala. where we dry-docked for 8 hours and I went into Mobile for mail and sent Judy picture post cards of Mobile.

Leaving Mobile at 7 P.M. that evening – unbeknownst to our Capt. we had a drunken pilot aboard.  Our Capt. Saved the ship from ramming a dredge in mid stream by putting all engines “full astern” and having me let go the “stern anchor” – we stopped inches from the dredge – got a new – sober pilot aboard and made the Gulf of Mexico in early A.M.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Here I Begin

So, here I begin my journey, writing about my genealogical adventures.  I have been inspired by the Blogging community and viewing some of the Rootstech 2013 convention which was streamed live over the internet.  The emphasis on storytelling was a main theme this year; telling our stories for the generations in the future.  I have taken my title from renowned story teller, Syd Leiberman, a keynote speaker who shared some of his family stories in order to inspire his listeners to tell their own.  He encouraged us, and I paraphrase, to catch some time, tell a story and launch it on the water.  I found that phrase to be particularly descriptive of the process. One must first capture the memory or the moment, tell it or write it down and then release it as you share it with others.

 Dennis Brimhall, the CEO of FamilySearch International posed the question, “What would our future generations wished we had done for them 200-years from now?”  He demonstrated the power of storytelling, sharing what his daughter had accomplished by interviewing his father who was a bomber pilot over Germany in World War II.  She researched the records and assembled a bound book with his story and photographs as a tribute to her grandfather.  The future generations in that family will get a glimpse into the heroic life of this man who was shot down over Munich and captured by the Germans.

Writing regularly is good exercise.  It can accomplish several things simultaneously, such as improving writing and typing skills, keeping one to a schedule, helping to reach goals, and hopefully the end product might be enjoyable enough to interest others.  I find that if I commit a goal to writing, the goal becomes solidified and somehow becomes more important to finish.

Along with my compulsion to find where my ancestors came from, one of the projects on my list is to transcribe my father’s World War II diary.  Even though I personally have no further generations to pass this to, I think others of my generation that have relatives that served on an LST in the south Pacific might find it interesting.  Someone of that description started a web site for the LST that my father served on.  That would be an ideal place to present it. I just need to start and do a few pages at a time. 

I would also like to find a way to present a family history beyond dry reports, with written stories and summaries, photographs, maps, etc. in order to bring a family to life.  There were several programs and applications mentioned at the convention that might be helpful, such as Tree Lines.  I am currently working on the family history of a friend which I would like to “bring to life” in this manner.  If I could develop a system that works well, I think my cousins in various branches of my family could appreciate their history even more and want to keep it for further generations.  Perhaps that is the legacy I will leave my family, extended as it might be.